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GUEST OPINION Smartphones: Not just a mobile checkout

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Everyone has a smartphone – well as many as 82% do – but retailers need to now look beyond just having an m-commerce offering and instead delivering a brand experience through all devices. And payments is one area where they can happen, thinks Andrew Smith, co-founder and CTO of CloudZync

Consumer smartphone usage has exploded in the last decade, with figures from comScore estimating that 64 per cent of UK mobile users now own smartphones and our own research conducted earlier this year suggesting this could be as high as 82 per cent. As a result of this trend many businesses have already come to understand the importance of having a mobile commerce offering, but retailers must begin to look ahead to the next step for mobile. Smartphones have the potential to be more than simply an extension of existing e-commerce strategies and become a tool in improving consumers’ brand experience, whether in-store or online.

Payments are one area that many retailers, banks, and technology providers are looking at as the next step for mobile devices. Whether you believe the mobile payments industry is booming (growing by 27 per cent this year) or that say its failing because it’s only available in ‘less than one in ten stores on London’s Oxford Street’, one thing is clear – smartphones offer a unique opportunity for consumers to make transactions quickly and easily.

There are already a wide range of solutions available and whether retailers decide to use NFC, an app, a smartphone camera, or a clip-on card reader to facilitate a cash transaction, this is generally only of interest to the industry, journalists, and maybe some early adopters. However, it does not signify that any given solution will propel us into a future, in which everybody (or almost everybody) uses a phone to pay for things. For any given mobile solution to be successful, it needs to be simple for consumers to use and integrate easily into their lives.

As an industry, we are in danger of being distracted by the arguments between different payment technologies, instead of remembering why mobile is such a powerful technology in the first place. For example, much discussion remains focused on NFC vs. QR code technology, but most solutions on the market have a common problem – they aren’t taking full advantage of the technology already in a consumer’s hand.

Don’t just take the money and run

Smartphones offer retailers a unique opportunity to engage consumers with more than just a new way to pay for goods, but also loyalty schemes, special offers, and gift cards. Some may argue that these functions are already available through separate services or mobile apps, but the advantage for brands of offering these together is the creation of a transaction jumping-off point – to become the beginning or continuation of a brands interaction with a customer, rather than an end point.

Rather than ending once the customer has completed their transaction, this new channel would remain open after a payment has been made and allow curated offers and loyalty rewards to flow from businesses to customers. This adds value for the shopper beyond the in-store retail environment by bringing all of their loyalty schemes, offers, and gift cards together; making them accessible via a single dashboard they can carry in their pocket.

By offering customers more than just a way to make a payment with their mobile phone, retailers can actually engage consumers with loyalty schemes and special offers. This collective approach to mobile would both improve the customer’s experience, and help retailers to truly take advantage of the smartphone that’s now in most pockets.

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